Casual supporters may glance at the 2022 FA Cup bracket and think that the event’s outcomes are as fluky as ever. How else would so many leagues (and divisions) still be represented when there’s 20 EPL clubs, and 16 bids left alive?
But in WagerBop’s view, it is not a weakness of the FA Cup but rather the strength of England’s prodigious club-football depth that has made the bracket so minnow-friendly.
As we’ll recap in the FA Cup “futures” section just below, legacy EPL teams have been putting outrageously good lineups on the pitch in an effort to secure advancement through the 4th and 5th rounds … with mixed results.
It reminds me of how more NHL superstars have been traveling to play in the IIHF World Championship over the last 5-10 years, only for the growth of European ice hockey to compensate and keep North America off the podium.
Then again, 2022’s worst “starting 11 belly-flop” offender is Manchester United, and Red Devils aren’t ranked in the top 4 of the Premiership currently. Liverpool – kicking and screaming – joins Man City, Chelsea, and Tottenham as a fierce 4-some of elite lineups hoping to feast on tiny fish, notwithstanding the sharp teeth on those little suckers.
Scroll further down for 4 single-match betting picks on the FA Cup’s 5th round week of kickoffs.
2022 FA Cup Futures Odds and Forecast
(Odds courtesy of FanDuel Sportsbook)
Man City +185
West Ham +1600
Crystal Palace +2500
Nottm Forest +8000
Boreham Wood +42000
The many carp-fishing nerds in the English Premier League fan base know that a “creek chub,” a gregarious shallow-water sprat that looks rather like a baby tarpon, is often the easiest fish to catch over the cold winter months.
That outdoor sports angle fits with a noteworthy “outdoor sports” angle of the TV variety. Just take a look at the 2022 FA Cup bracket — there are big, fat minnows swimming all over!
Nottingham Forest has emerged as a surprising FA Cup underdog pick after the club produced “fairy tale” upsets of Arsenal and Leicester City in the 4th and 5th rounds respectively. Middlesbrough knocked out Man United with an 8-7 penalty-kick tiebreaker, in spite of Ralf Rangnick fielding an All-Star opposing cast that included Ronaldo, Paul Pogba, and keeper Dean Henderson.
After somehow reaching the final 16 from the National League ranks, Boreham Wood is fast becoming a sentimental favorite (or underdog). National League clubs exist in the 5th tier of England’s promotion and relegation system, meaning that “The Wood” is far closer to 100th-ranked than 1st-ranked among UK soccer brands. But led by the iron-defending back line veteran Mark Ricketts, Boreham Wood defeated 2019 Football Association Cup minnow Wimbledon, then tripped recent Premier League side AFC Bournemouth to secure a spot in March 3rd’s fixture. 2022’s ultimate FA Cup ‘dog makes history by simply appearing in next Thursday’s historic Premier League vs National League elimination match, but it’s not crazy to think that Everton’s poor form could help Boreham Wood continue to the quarter-final round.
The FA Cup’s headwaters have been filled with so many minnows that the phenomenon is prodding itself along, as teams of England’s elite division are forced to knock each other out while non-EPL teams paired by the tournament’s randomized draw system make it so at least a single minnow can advance to the next round. There is one familiar pairing, however, that is helping a Premier League favorite draw bets.
Liverpool’s manager Jürgen Klopp, as has been reported endlessly on WagerBop, is no great “supporter” of throwing his finest starting-11 into a preliminary FA Cup match of any sort. Many analysts contend that Klopp ultimately prefers a thinner domestic slate as Reds manufacture a final push for Premier League hardware, an angle that additionally lies behind Tottenham Hotspur’s bright odds to finish in at least 4th place. However, the circumstances of 2022 could motivate (or restrict?) Klopp into giving Liverpool a fair shot.
Norwich City, next week’s Liverpool opponent, is technically a “Premier League” entry in the FA Cup, but Canaries’ long odds to win reveal that Liverpool might as well be playing an English Championship club in Round 5 and not a genuine EPL rival. The theme of Canaries earning respect vs EPL big-shots is played out by now, as Norwich appears to be on a fast track to relegation for 2022-23 since failing to take 3 points from visiting Crystal Palace.
The 2-to-1 odds offered on Manchester City will tempt long-term gamblers who think City’s depth is prohibitive of any tournament foe sneaking up on Pep Guardiola. But there was no better “one-off” team in Europe last season than Chelsea, and the 5-to-1 Pensioners have a relatively easy path to the quarter-final round with Luton Town next on the ledger.
Should we pick one “minnow” to reach a semi-final? Experienced punters will look at Nottingham and Huddersfield, non-EPL sides scheduled to play a 5th-round match at City Ground on March 7th. However, there’s a chance Stoke City’s (+10000) championship odds and (+380) money-line price for Round 5 could change in the coming days.
Stoke City could have helped inspire the English pop band “Smoke City,” but then again, there was nothing symphonic about Potters’ dispatch of Wigan Athletic in Round 4.
Stoke’s 18 total fouls, and its prodding of Wigan into a red card, could help Stoke City earn a reputation as the most physical, inconvenient, and ruthless non-Premier League based FA Cup opponent outside of Millwall.
However, in Potters’ 3 most recent matches, the club has come alive on the attack, and has scored a total of 7 times.
Smoke City Stoke City’s FA Cup opponent Crystal Palace has been pedestrian with the football since tallying a few extra goals early in the EPL season. In spite of Eagles’ reputation for defending at Selhurst Park, a humming rival attack is certainly an “inconvenience” for CPFC.
FA Cup 5th Round: Previews, Odds, and Picks
March 1: Peterborough United vs Manchester City
FanDuel’s (+105) odds on Manchester City (-2) to win by 3 goals or more on Tuesday will be tempting to many punters. City is blessed with a struggling EPL opponent in Everton this weekend, and scored 5 goals in its opening Champions League leg to essentially knock Sporting Lisbon out of the UEFA tournament 1 kickoff early.
Peterborough may have hoped to greet a distracted, tired Citizens side in Round 5. Conversely, Pep Guardiola’s club should be ready to rock and focused on the pitch.
However, cautious goal-total bets could prove wiser than any pick on money-line odds or against the spread, partially since Manchester City is (wait for it) not the only club playing in the match. Peterborough is having an extremely hard time scoring against pedestrian English Championship back lines. The “Posh” haven’t scored a league goal throughout a frightening span of 5 matches, and only attempted 3 shots in last round’s Football Association Cup win over QBR despite fielding 2 strikers atop a 3-4-1-2. Nonetheless, bettors can find 1/1 odds on O/U (3.5) total goals at FanDuel.
Based on City’s performance in the 2021-22 FA Cup, Guardiola may have invented a formula to beat every single lower-tier opponent exactly 4 to 1. But teams like Fulham offer more on the attack than Peterborough, and Man City’s next match to follow transcends the stakes on the table.
There have been more consequential matches played for Man United and Man City than the upcoming fixture in early March. Ronaldo could score a couple of times to take 3 points from Sky Blues, and because MUFC is so far behind on the EPL table, Manchester City could technically move forward and continue piling-up wins without scratching the trophy. However, the ease of City’s path over the next 2 weeks will make the Man United appearance feel like a buoy of excitement in a sea of banal mismatches.
Guardiola’s tactics will not hedge toward recklessness with such a big date coming up on the league calendar, and moreover given a 5th-round opponent that offers almost no threat to score twice and emerge victorious.
Pick: Under (3.5)
March 1: Crystal Palace vs Stoke City F.C.
FA Cup odds are looking staid and conservative with so much betting action keeping other sports markets busy, and there’s no better example than the (-126) goal-total odds on O/U (2.5) goals for the CPFC vs Stoke City 5th round matchup.
A successful series of Championship victories for Stoke City could have bookmakers in a trance. However, the expectation of goals at Selhurst Park overlooks how Potters are defeating league and FA Cup opponents alike, with a physical game comparable to Millwall and other teams that rely on free-kick set pieces to penetrate the best lineups.
Aside from a brief flourish in the fall, Crystal Palace’s goals have largely dried up. Additionally, given the footage of Tyrese Campbell scoring twice for Potters on Saturday, Eagles may be more consumed with defending than usual even if Stoke City’s possession-time outweighs their high-profile opponent’s.
WagerBop expects to see a head-butting exercise at midfield as the underdog uses physical tactics to try to advance against zonal EPL defending.
Stoke City is a solid underdog pick-to-win at 4/1 betting odds, but there’s also a reason why “1-1” Exact Score props are selling almost as quickly as bets on a 1-0 Crystal Palace victory. FanDuel’s draw-result odds of (+270) are more generous than the gambling risk from even a partial combined sample of proposition odds on drawn final scores.
In 2022, FA Cup draws are being taken to penalty kicks instead of being replayed, but CPFC’s eagerness to avoid a draw doesn’t mean Eagles will be up to the job.
Pick: Draw (+270)
March 1: Middlesbrough vs Tottenham Hotspur
Parlay sharks will be drawn to Chelsea, not Tottenham, as a parlay pick in the 5th round. Chelsea (-380) is facing a Luton Town side that’s gotten through the bracket against lower-tier opposition so far, while Spurs (-160) are not considered such a sure thing to triumph against Middlesbrough.
It should be considered, though, that a 1-to-1.6 wager sets up a profitable parlay with an easy win on the other betting slip, while parlaying Chelsea’s (-380) money-line odds necessitates picking a dodgy market as the kicker to earn anything close to 1-to-1 risk.
Chelsea is facing COVID complications, a furious schedule of international and domestic-tournament bouts, and an EFL Cup final against Liverpool on Sunday. Middlesbrough may be a more dangerous opponent than Luton Town, but Tottenham’s form offers a different angle altogether.
English Championship teams with future Tottenham matches set truly drew the short straw. Harry Kane led Lilywhites to an epic road upset of Manchester City last weekend, scoring his 2nd and decisive goal in the 95th minute to manufacture a 3-2 triumph. Kane’s trademark heroics certainly won’t hurt Spurs’ amount of drawn betting action in FanDuel soccer futures, but there’s hard analysis behind the optimistic odds on Spurs to ascend on the EPL table. Tottenham faces a far lighter schedule than Pensioners and has strong momentum going into Round 5, making Spurs the far more solid pick.
March 3: Everton F.C. vs Boreham Wood
Everton’s lowly league status may explain why Toffeemen (-950) are considered an “inevitable” winner in Round 5. After all, there’s no chance of a reserve lineup taking the pitch.
Don’t overlook the minnow just because an elite club’s in the pond. Punters must handicap Boreham Wood in the context of English football before parlaying Everton’s razor-thin odds to win.
Watford’s pre-pandemic 3-0 upset of Liverpool’s “invincible” squad should have taught EPL bookmakers a lifetime lesson. Boreham Wood may never be favored in an FA Cup match due to having 100 teams ranked above the organization, but could be touted to beat 3rd-tier teams from Italy, France, and beyond.
An extra motivational element could also help sustain Boreham Wood’s bid. The FA Cup is after all a sponsored prizefight, not an exhibition played for charity. The National League side’s footballers, proprietors, and coaches are getting a lifestyle-boost from winners’ cash bonuses that no EPL cast could contemplate, having already earned wealth from the game. To paraphrase “All The President’s Men,” not that any of that matters, but if The Wood screws up against Everton next Thursday, somebody is going to get mad.
WagerBop forecasts a fortunate 1-goal win for Toffees that casts the EPL side in a worse light than the losing club.
Pick: Boreham Wood (+2) (+150)
Kurt has authored close to 1000 stories covering football, soccer, basketball, baseball, ice hockey, prize-fighting and the Olympic Games. Kurt posted a 61% win rate on 200+ college and NFL gridiron picks last season. He muses about High School football on social media as The Gridiron Geek.